Life Mask of Francis Bacon (1969)
by Clive Barker
Clive Barker is England’s leading Pop Sculptor. He had formed a close friendship with Francis Bacon.
“I decided that I wanted to use Francis as the subject of a sculpture and came up with the idea of a life mask. I went to visit Francis at Reece Mews to discuss the possibility. My interest was sparked by somebody in Switzerland who had developed an exciting new formula for creating plaster that was much lighter than traditional recipes. The mixture had the consistency of porridge and when it cooled it was painted on the face. The advantage of this new method was that the lightness of the material meant that it did not sink into the face. Therefore, the features retained an astonishing likeness.
Francis willingly agreed to sit for the mask. I gave him two small straws to place in his nostrils so that he could breath and held his hand so that if he was in difficulty he could signal to me to stop. This was particularly important because after the initial layer was complete traditional plaster had to be applied over the top to ensure the mask retain its shape when it was removed. I was worried that the first cast might not have been successful but Francis reassured me that if that was the case he was happy to do it again. During the whole process Francis could only breathe through the two straws and after I had successfully completed the cast, he told me that he had been in agony because of his asthma. I felt terrible, but very touched by Francis’s support.
I went on to make six plaster and six bronze versions of the mask. There was a second edition of three further bronzes created when I went with Anthony D’Offay Gallery in London.”